Great starting points for Primary Maths

Posted in Inspiration & Ideas
The weather is a frequently untapped mathematical resource which we could all make far greater use of to help us teach some important, challenging and extremely useful maths skills.

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This week, here in the UK, we saw our first taste of warmer weather and sunny skies. What a difference it makes to everyone it seems! Happy faces, people outside eating, drinking and playing and everyone talking about the summer ahead.

An image of a bright sun background

The weather is a constant source of conversation in every country but none more so in one which can easily have four seasons in a day it seems (I believe Melbourne in Australia claims a similar fate!). As a starting point for maths it’s so relevant, is being experienced by every child every day, is accessible to us all and offers so many wonderful ways into areas of maths which can be challenging to teach.

So, here’s a few ideas which can be easily adapted for all year groups to show you just how wonderful using the weather can be to support your planning every day of the year. Don’t forget, the more connections you help children make mathematically between both the real world and maths and the areas within maths itself, the less there is to teach and learn. That means you can spend longer learning about things in greater depth and apply skills widely (this fits beautifully with the idea of Far East approach to ‘mastery’ being talked about so much in maths currently).

Understanding and Teaching Difference:

Difference is based upon the concept of inequality. In real life children experience inequality far more than equality. Things are taller/shorter, older/younger, more expensive/less expensive etc. When we think about whether we experience difference as ‘warmer/colder ‘ and measure this change in degrees.

Activity:

  • Position a thermometer outside the classroom at a height accessible by the children (so they can look at it during break, or before school etc) Support them in taking readings each day at a similar time.
  • Build these temperatures using interlocking cubes in two colours.
  • Use the same colour for the first group of 10 and change to the second colour for the next group so that children are encouraged to use place value to see how many cubes have been used rather than counting in ones.
  • Record the temperature shown by the cubes as degrees using numerals and display alongside.
  • Build the temperature each day so that you are gradually constructing a 3D graph of that week’s temperatures.

The weather is a constant source of conversation in every country but none more so in one which can easily have four seasons in a day it seems (I believe Melbourne in Australia claims a similar fate!). As a starting point for maths it’s so relevant, is being experienced by every child every day, is accessible to us all and offers so many wonderful ways into areas of maths which can be challenging to teach.

So, here’s a few ideas which can be easily adapted for all year groups to show you just how wonderful using the weather can be to support your planning every day of the year. Don’t forget, the more connections you help children make mathematically between both the real world and maths and the areas within maths itself, the less there is to teach and learn. That means you can spend longer learning about things in greater depth and apply skills widely (this fits beautifully with the idea of Far East approach to ‘mastery’ being talked about so much in maths currently).

Understanding and Teaching Difference:

Difference is based upon the concept of inequality. In real life children experience inequality far more than equality. Things are taller/shorter, older/younger, more expensive/less expensive etc. When we think about whether we experience difference as ‘warmer/colder ‘ and measure this change in degrees.

Activity:

  • Position a thermometer outside the classroom at a height accessible by the children (so they can look at it during break, or before school etc) Support them in taking readings each day at a similar time.
  • Build these temperatures using interlocking cubes in two colours.
  • Use the same colour for the first group of 10 and change to the second colour for the next group so that children are encouraged to use place value to see how many cubes have been used rather than counting in ones.
  • Record the temperature shown by the cubes as degrees using numerals and display alongside.
  • Build the temperature each day so that you are gradually constructing a 3D graph of that week’s temperatures.

img_13781

(This image was set to be upright but will only display on its side – apologies!)

Notice how because you’ve used two colours of ten you can now reason how many cubes are in each tower without counting. Instead, children are strengthening their use of their ‘complements of ten’ by reasoning that ‘There’s one less here so that must be 9 degrees’ or ‘ There’s 10 and 4 more here so that must be 14. That means it got warmer.

Questions:

Can we see when the temperature increased and decreased? Would this be warmer or cooler?

When we compare two days side by side and line up the cube towers can we see the ‘difference’ between the temperatures? What would we have to do to make these cube towers the same? 

By asking this we can now see that 1 tower is more/less or equal to the other. If they are unequal, which day was warmer and which cooler? What would we have to do to the towers to make them equal? (Remove some or add some). This is the ‘difference’ in temperature.

Extension Activities:

Using newspapers and news clips on-line (MET office, BBC etc) we can see what the temperature was in different areas of the UK and the World.

Questions:

Where was it warmer? How do you know? Build this temperature and compare it using cube towers with the temperature where we live.

Where was it cooler? What was the difference when we compare this with our reading?

Cross-Curricular Links:

Every class should have a UK map and world map displayed constantly so that children can ask and answer questions about where they’ve visited and make important links in their geography and history work with contemporary issues.

United Kingdom

Where in the UK is this place called London? Birmingham? Edinburgh?

Where do you travel to and how could we find out what temperature it was there and compare it with us?

Looking for unifix cubes for your class as used in this example? Click here for easy ordering and best value.

Want more ideas like this? Karen Wilding works across the UK and internationally delivering high quality, inspirational training guaranteed to build both skill and confidence for all staff resulting in great progress for all. Karen Wilding specialises in training in ‘Outstanding Problem Solving from the EYFS to Year 6’ and ‘Teaching Essential Number Sense: The Foundation of Calculation’. Click here to find out more.

Contact Karen here to discuss your training needs and enquire about ways to engage all staff in highly effective professional development.

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  •  

    Thank you so much Karen. I enjoyed the training this morning tremendously and tried out the ideas straight after lunch with my class leading to 20 mins of enthusiastic discussion! Brilliant!

    The children said they really enjoyed it and wanted to do more so I am definitely going to be changing my teaching!’

  • Thank you for showing us HOW to change. So many courses just tell us what isn't working but not how to go about addressing this. Your approaches make so much sense! Thank you.

  • Just to say thank you again for 3 really brilliant talks at SGIS. We're a small school near Basel and we’d be interested in anything you’re doing nearby (Zurich way) so please let us know!